How to keep your Christmas tree looking fresh and at its best
With Christmas trees seemingly going on sale and being put up in the home earlier and earlier every year, the right care and attention for your tree to keep it looking at its best throughout the festive season is more important than ever. There's nothing worse than a tree that starts well but deteriorates to a dishevelled state in the last few days before Christmas just as it's meant to be taking centre stage. To prevent this from happening we recommend checking out our article on when to buy a Christmas tree and following the Christmas tree care steps below.
1) Getting your Christmas tree home
- If you're buying your Christmas tree from a local retailer, have them net it for you to help you carry it around without damaging the branches and make it easier to fit into your car.
- If it will fit into your vehicle, open the boot and passenger side door and slide the Christmas tree in through the boot so that the base rests in the passenger foot well with the top of the tree resting near the back windscreen in the opposite corner - reclining the front passenger seat to support the tree may help.
- To prevent drying out your tree on the way home, avoid using the heating in your car, particularly if you have a journey of more than 10-15 minutes.
- If the tree is too large to fit inside your vehicle, make sure it is well secured to the roof or roof rack. If using a roof rack, attach it so the base is at the front of your car and the top of the tree at the back.
- Cut trees don't like being exposed to high winds as they dehydrate the tree and may damage the branches, so it's best to avoid attaching the tree outside of your vehicle on a long journey on a motorway or A-road if possible.
2) Storing your Christmas tree before you're ready to put it up in the home
- Store your Christmas tree in a cool, sheltered, dry place until you're ready to bring it into the home to decorate.
- If you will be storing the tree for more than one day, remove the netting and saw off one inch (2.5cm) from the base of the trunk, cutting straight across. Do not use an axe which is liable to split the trunk and kill your tree.
- The reason for cutting off an inch at the bottom of the trunk is because when trees are cut, sap oozes out and hardens within about 5 hours when not in water, creating a seal and preventing further water absorption even when put in water again. If you're buying your tree from us in person and it won't take long for you to get home, feel free to ask our garden centre team to make the cut for you.
- Your tree may absorb up to 4 litres of water in the first day so use a large bucket and keep it regularly topped up before you bring your tree into the home.
- If the water level falls below the base of the trunk for more than 5 hours at any time you'll need to cut a further inch off the base again. Try to avoid doing this too many times as it will leave less of a stem to hold the tree security in your tree stand and if done excessively may mean you have to remove some of the lower branches, potentially impacting the shape of your tree.
- If you have opted for a rootballed tree, water the root ball well as soon as you get home, then let the water drain off for 24 hours before wrapping it back into the plastic to preserve moisture.
- The plastic will help protect your floors and carpets to a certain extent but we also recommend laying down extra sheets of waterproof material such as tarpaulin when you bring your tree indoors.
- Try to avoid having rootballed trees indoors for any more than 10 days to give them the best chance of survival when planted out, otherwise the tree will get too accustomed to the warmth. Also avoid constantly moving rootballed trees abruptly between different temperature extremes in/outdoors.
3) Choosing the right location and temperature control
- Carefully consider where you want to put your tree in the home. The location should be away from heat sources such as radiators and open fires and ideally close to a plug wall socket if you will be having lights on your tree.
- Corners can be a good place as this keeps your tree out of the way of knocks and bumps and allows you to choose the best side of the Christmas tree to display.
- Use of excessively high temperatures on central heating systems is a sure fire way to dry out your tree and accelerate needle loss. Unless you care for your Christmas tree perfectly and sacrifice your comfort by keeping the temperature in the room where your Christmas tree resides low, a Norway Spruce will naturally start dropping larger volumes of needles after 3 weeks. Short of going cold over the winter, the only sensible solution if you want the coniferous fragrance of a Norway Spruce is to put your tree up closer to Christmas.
- Whilst Nordmann Firs are renowned for their needle retention it's still best to avoid excessively high temperatures in the room where your tree will reside if you can help it.
4) Watering your Christmas tree
- All Christmas trees were living things and will only survive for a finite amount of time in the home. Think of your tree in the same way as cut flowers; it will need a constant supply of water that should be regularly topped up.
- When you buy your Christmas tree more than half of its weight is water. In fact, one of the ways of checking the quality of a tree is to see how heavy it is - heavier trees are healthier as they are less dried out.
- When you first saw off an inch (2.5cm) from the base of your tree and dunk it in a large bucket of water it may absorb up to 4 litres over the first 24 hours, particularly if the tree has dried out on the way home.
- Your tree can then be expected to absorb roughly one litre of water for every inch (2.5cm) of trunk diameter per day. Thereafter, a rough rule of thumb is that a Christmas tree can be expected to absorb one litre of water for every inch (2.5cm) diameter of the trunk per day.
- Very dry pine needles can ignite quite easily. A well watered tree will reduce the risk of it becoming a fire hazard.
- If the water level falls below the bottom of the base of your tree, the sap at the base will harden within about 5 hours, creating a seal and preventing further water absorption even if you were to top up the water supply again.
- For Norway Spruce trees in particular, regular watering will help improve needle retention and rejuvenate the rich coniferous fragrance. Just add water to the base - there is no need to spray the needles or branches.
- Do not add honey, sugar, aspirin or anything else to the water mix - plain water is best and this way if you accidentally knock over the water tray you won't end up with sticky presents!
- If the water in your stand starts to smell a bit "off" it's because it's been sitting for too long, so change/top it up more regularly. If your tree isn't drinking at all after several days it's probably because it was left for too long between having 1 inch sawn off the base and being put in water. In this case we recommend sawing one inch off the base again to get rid of the hardened sap and putting back into water straight away.
5) On-going Christmas tree Care
- If you buy a variety other than the 'no needle drop' Nordman Fir more than a couple of weeks before Christmas you're probably going to need to tidy up a few fallen pine needles, even with the very best Christmas tree care.
- It's part of the life cycle of conifer trees that they drop their needles and this will accelerate if they are dehydrated. Use a dust pan and brush or vacuum cleaner, remembering to empty it regularly as lots of needles can clog up even a larger device. You'll may need to tidy needles every couple of days to prevent them from accumulating, which is hazardous for children and pets.
- Occasionally check for sap leakage from your tree that may have found its way onto nearby furnishings and floor coverings - the sooner these are found, the easier they are to remove.